Excelling as a Union Apprentice

Ryan Panas is the epitome of what employers are looking for, no matter what industry your company is in. The second-year Sheet Metal Apprentice at Harker Heating and Cooling shows up on time, works hard, is not afraid of a challenge, is always smiling, and makes the best out of every situation.

Panas working on a customer’s HVAC system.

Panas has sheet metal work in his blood as his grandfather was a sheet metal worker in the Air National Guard, but it was a conversation with a family friend that sparked his interest in the trade and he began his research. Usually, this is where you say the rest is history, but for Panas, his story hit a bump in the road.

Panas started his apprenticeship at a non-union shop where he did not receive any benefits, just an hourly wage.

“I was at a point where I realized how important having health care and retirement benefits were,” explained Panas. “The company I was working for didn’t offer either, so I started looking at other HVAC companies in the area. A friend of mine suggested I check into Harker.”

And now, the rest is history.

“The emphasis on training and safety are at the forefront through the union shop versus the non-union,” shared Panas. “It also offered me a better chance for advancement through the apprenticeship program. I also have access to good healthcare and retirement benefits.”

Panas took this new opportunity with Harker Heating and Cooling and he has hit the ground running.

“First and foremost, Ryan has an exceptionally great attitude, and his personality is very likeable,” explained Panas’ supervisor Jordan Breunig. “Those two characteristics alone set him up to excel in a setting where he is working directly with our clients. Ryan seems to have a knack for explaining problems and solutions in a way that is very understanding to homeowners that don’t have all the technical knowledge of the system. His ability to do this with confidence helps him make recommendations for system upgrades and improvements. Customers do not second guess his knowledge and trust his advice on how to move forward with things.”

Panas working on a customer’s HVAC system.

A typical day for Panas consists of many service calls addressing various situations. Harker Heating and Cooling technicians handle preventative maintenance, new system installs, and evaluating and troubleshooting various issues a customer may call about. They are knowledgeable about the products and systems that they service, so they can make the best recommendation to a customer about their situation.

What is it that makes Panas stand out above the rest? It is all about a good attitude and positive outlook.

“I bring a smile to work every day,” explained Panas. “I am there to provide a service. Sometimes that involves being a problem solver and helping explain things to the homeowner in a way that makes it easier for them to understand. I take the time to explain, and sometimes show, each customer what was done, ask if they have any questions, and I take the time to answer them if they do. It makes the homeowner feel more comfortable and confident in the work I’ve done for them. I genuinely like what I do and take pride in the quality of my work. And I think my customers can feel that.”

Panas is thriving at Harker Heating and Cooling, and the benefits that his current union contractor has made work and life just that much more satisfying to him.

“I absolutely would recommend (those interested in a career in sheet metal to) strongly consider a union contractor,” said Panas. “It offers good pay, training, retirement, and healthcare packages. They care about the safety of their workers and demand a high quality of work.”

When Breunig asked Panas what he felt was the biggest advantages of working for a union contractor versus a non-union contractor, the second-year apprentice shared there are better tools provided to him, a solid wage, healthcare, national and local pensions, the fact that union contractors do not pull money off your check for benefits, you earn overtime after eight-hours of daily work, annual wage increases negotiated by their union representatives, and they are flexible with your schedule when you ask for time off for appointments or personal time. Breunig added that apprentices start out making good wages, and they are receiving hands-on experience while being paid to go to school in their chosen field. Sounds like all wins!

With good benefits and a positive outlook on his career, the only way for Panas to go, is up!

“Ryan is not afraid of working on anything,” explained Breunig when describing three qualities he sees in Panas. “Even if he has not had the opportunity to do it before, he will ‘figure it out.’ I think Ryan is willing to take on a difficult and/or unfamiliar task because he is resourceful.”

Panas working on a customer’s HVAC system.

Breunig continued, “Ryan has solid communication skills. He is able to clearly explain what he is seeing, (which) helps him convey details to Project Estimators, CSRs, and Parts Guys (to) help us run our business efficiently and keep things moving along smoothly. (And) ATTITUDE! He is able to turn a job that is not necessarily enjoyable into a good time. He finds a way to push through and come out smiling! Customers recognize that a job is less than ideal, and when they see how he handles the adversity, they are glad they chose to work with HARKER.”

Panas is all about hard work and a positive attitude which he plans to carry throughout his apprenticeship and sheet metal career.

“I will continue working to be the best and most knowledgeable service tech that I can be on whatever equipment I am sent to service or install,” said Panas.

The future is bright for Ryan Panas, and we look forward to watching him continue to shine!

For more information on apprenticeships, visit the following websites:
Mechanical Industries Center’s website http://www.mechanicalindustries.org/
Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards’ website https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/apprenticeship/
Sheet Metal Local 18’s website http://www.smwlu18.org/